Change of Command Ceremony

General Holmes: Good morning everyone and thanks for being here to support the men and women of Air Combat Command. Let me begin with some shout-outs and thank yous.

Thank you Secretary Disbrow and Secretary Peters, you honor us all by being here once again. Thank you. And also thanks to the mayors that are here with us. All of our bases and Airmen are part of your communities, thank you for making them feel like it. Thanks to Secretaries of the Air Force Deborah James and Lisa Disbrow and Chiefs of Staff Mark Welsh and David Goldfein for giving Sara and I one more opportunity to serve America and our Airmen. Chief, special thanks to you and Dawn for all of your efforts on behalf of Airmen everywhere. And personal thanks to you for your mentorship and kind remarks. Sara and I look forward to being faithful partners with you in all that you do.

Hawk and Gillian, all of us here are in your debt for the tireless efforts you have invested in our nation, the Air Force and our Airmen. Almost all of us owe you a personal debt because of your personal influence on our lives and the things that you have taught us. Our Air Force would not be the same without the contributions of Hawk and Gillian Carlisle. You now join a long line of legendary former TAC commanders and COMACCs, many of whom are here today. You two will always be loved here, always be welcomed here and always be remembered here. There is no one else like you. I am very glad that so many of your family and friends could be here for this event and for your retirement this afternoon. Thanks Hawk. Thanks Gillian.

Generals and members of the senior executive service, commanders, leaders, command chiefs, spouses, thanks for your day-to-day service and leadership, and your devotion and commitment to the men and women of the Air Force. You inspire us every day. Thanks also to the retired leaders that are here with us. You have set our path and marked our course. We walk in your shoes, and we fly in your contrails. We know that you will continue to keep us straight.

Thanks to our ACC commanders’ group: community leaders from the across the nation, volunteers on behalf of our Airmen and their families and the communities that make up America, sources of well-considered advice to ACC’s commanders – thanks in advance for your advice and counsel.

To the hundreds of Air Combat Command Airmen who worked to make this ceremony a perfect sendoff for the Carlisles and a fantastic welcome for the Holmes – thank you. Ceremonies like these provide part of the glue that binds us together as members of the profession of arms. They remind us of our heritage and traditions as American Airmen. Thanks for all of your extraordinary efforts and please join me in a round of applause for all those Airmen.

To my family and friends, many of you have come a long way to be here, Sara and I are touched that you’re here with us, and are eternally grateful. Your love and friendship have powered us for nearly 36 years in the Air Force and will fuel our efforts in the future. There is no way that we can ever repay all that you have given us over the years. Thanks to all of you for being here.

There are too many to name but please allow me to recognize some of my family that are here today: my mom and dad, Col. Clyde and Connie Holmes, they have taught me, worried about me, and prayed for me. I know my mom will continue to count the hours and worry every time I travel, and that my dad will always be prepared for a phone call to talk through the debrief of every play. For Sara’s parents, Dr. Jim and Mary Lewis, you welcomed me into your home and made our family part of your family. You have always been there to support us and love us – thank you. To our brothers and their families, first, Pat, Jill, Jeb, and Jessie, thanks for your constant love and friendship and for making us always welcome at your mountain empire retreat.

And then, John, Debbie and Andrew Lewis, you taught us all how to deal with extremes of love and loss that few people have encountered and introduced us to a new world at Flying Horse Farms. Thank you for bringing us into your life. To our cousins, the News, the Miltons, the Hunkins, our sister cousins as we grew up and still our brothers and sisters to us now - thanks for being here with us.

And Sara, Rebecca and Wade, finally, you have supported me and loved me through all my wandering without complaint. You’ve understood why I had to say yes and always prospered in your lives while sharing mine. I love you very much.

Finally, Airmen and families of Air Combat Command, men and women from every ethnic group and region, officer and enlisted, active, Reserve, Air National Guard, civil air patrol, civilian, the real heroes of this ceremony. As the chief said, and as Gen. Carlisle echoed, you live and work every day in a very dangerous world. You’re 26 years into continuous war in the Levant and 16 years into a long struggle in Afghanistan. You’ve left your homes and your families time after time to serve your country in its time of need. You’ve gone where your country needed you, whenever they’ve needed you -- even though there were ways to get out of it. You’ve delivered the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, command and control, combat rescue, and combat air power that made the joint force tick while operating at far flung bases that made it possible. No Air Force in history has sustained this much combat for this long.

On top of that, you now face new and revised challenges from both great and regional powers, which threaten the survival of our American experiment, seek to isolate us from our friends and allies, and hope to redefine the world on their terms.

Our success and survival as a nation in the face of these threats is not guaranteed. It depends on all Americans to uphold our ideals and make our union more perfect, but it certainly depends on the capabilities you bring as part of a joint team. Yes, it’s a dangerous world, and it grows more dangerous every day, but we will not be afraid; we will instead be ready. We will be ready to deter our enemies by demonstrating with certainty that we can defeat them. We will be ready by bringing a warfighting focus to everything that we do in Air Command Combat: in preparation, in execution and in the debrief. We will be ready by joining Gen. Goldfein, the 21st Air Force Chief of Staff, in revitalizing our squadrons, building joint leaders and teams and making multidomain command and control a reality.

All of these efforts start in our squadrons. We will revitalize our Air Combat Command squadrons by building ready Airmen, ready weapon systems and ready families. Ready Airmen are grown through education, training and experience. We will work to improve all three.

Improving the readiness of our weapons systems will require sustained effort by ready Airmen, sustained investment and a continued emphasis on the hard-earned basics of sortie generation.

We will build and sustain ready families by continuing our investments in family support but also by striving to achieve a work-life balance that our Airmen and their families can sustain for the long term. We will build leaders for this uncertain age by providing education, training and experience focused on our contributions to joint warfighting for leaders at all levels and all components. We delegate authority and empower leaders at every level to accomplish our missions, building leaders and leadership skills along the way. And we will do everything in our power to convince these leaders to stay with us and lead the Airmen of the future.

And finally, we will bring the future faster. We will accept risk and push our processes to combine and improve our weapon systems and tactics in new, faster and less expensive ways. We will lead the transformation of our command and control systems and processes to exploit all of the Air Force’s advantages, current capabilities and new capabilities, in the air, in space, in cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum, and oh yes, on land, together as a part of a joint team. We will learn to better integrate joint and coalition capabilities to sense, decide and act faster than our adversaries. These are the tasks Secretary Disbrow and Chief Goldfein have given us at Air Combat Command. They won’t be easy, but these tasks are also part of Air Combat Command heritage and traditions, of our DNA, and they can be traced back through the history of Air Combat Command, Tactical Air Command, and their predecessors. Readiness is still our profession. We will not be afraid. We will be ready, for the future, for each other, for our families, for America.

Sara and I are humbled and honored beyond words to serve alongside you. We look forward to working with Maj. Gen. McMullen, with Command Chief McDonald, with the Air Combat Command staff, with the command teams from around Air Combat Command, and the Airmen and families of Air Combat Command to build on the work that you’ve started. Sara and I are ready; we know that you are too. As Chief Goldfein would say, ‘Fight’s on!’ Thank you.